Jeff Steiner's Americans in France.
Resource for people that would like to live or travel in France.

Americans in France

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Parking Related

Right of Way

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Special Conditions

Traffic Lights

Vehicle Code


Traffic Lights

Also see Special Traffic Lights

Red / Yellow / Green

Traffic lights in France (called "feux tricolores") are exactly the same as in the States. Red means stop, yellow means the light will turn red in 3-5 sec and you should stop unless there is danger in doing so (e.g., the vehicle behind is following too close, you'd have to skid to stop, etc.), and green means go. We don't actually have to cover these do we? The only thing different from the U.S. is that France does not have horizontal traffic lights. They will always be vertical with red on top and green on bottom.

Even if you have a green light, you are not supposed to enter the intersection unless it is clear and you won't get stuck in the middle. This is the rule for the test, but absolutely no one actually follows it. For those in the intersection when their light turns red, the back of the other direction's light often has a red 'plus' light. When it's lit, the other direction has a red light and you can make your left turn, thus clearing the intersection.
There will always be a dashed line on the road near a traffic light, indicating where you should stop when the light is red. Sometimes the line is some distance back from the intersection. This is to give enough room to those who have to turn onto your road.

Priority of Signals

Often, there will be a sign attached to a light pole. If the light is functioning properly, you follow the light and ignore the sign. If the light is broken (out completely or flashing), you follow the sign. If there is cop regulating traffic at the intersection, (s)he has priority over any signs or lights. If the officer is facing you, you must stop. If (s)he is facing perpendicular to you, you can go. It's not always like the U.S., where the officer will use hand signals to indicate whether you should stop or go.
The priority of control is:   OFFICER  >  LIGHTS  >  SIGNS

Arrow Lights

When the red or green lights are in the form of arrows, that means you can go in that direction only. Just like the States. In general, the arrow lights will correspond to arrows painted on the road.

Flashing Yellow Arrow Lights

When you have a flashing yellow arrow light, you can go in that direction, even when there is also a red light. Usually, this permits you to turn right. THERE IS NO RIGHT TURN ON RED in France, unless there is a flashing yellow arrow. It is not necessary to stop when following the flashing arrow, but you must yield to pedestrians who may be crossing with the light and to other vehicles. Thus, it is not the same as a green arrow, which tells you that you have right-of-way.

Absence of a Green light

A flashing yellow light could replace the green light to indicate a specific danger. In the absence of signs indicating to the contrary, you can go through the flashing yellow with a reduced speed, yielding to the right.